Sea Urchin injury

Discussion in 'Near Misses and Lessons Learned' started by mgmonk, Nov 7, 2004.

  1. mgmonk

    mgmonk Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Atlanta, GA


    I just recently returned from a trip to Peurto Vallarta. I was there for a wedding, but thought that at least one dive was in order. The dive was good, very good actually. In the sense that diving in my shorts is always good.

    But it's what happened after the dive that I wanted to mention. Later that day I managed to step smack dab on top of a sea urchin whilst horse playing around some rocks (I know, mom, no horseplay). Anyway, my fiancé tried her best to get what she could out, but it's not easy. I had about 8 punctures, 4 straight in and 4 at an angle. I let 'em sit for 2 days, hoping they would dissolve, but after we looked into it the stories all pointed to having them removed as soon as possible. Including the redness indicating infection on the horizon.

    Last Wed. we sat in the ER from noon till 4. 2 hours of that was a surgeon alternately jabbing a syringe full of anesthesia into my foot and slicing my foot open with a scalpel. So she seems to have gotten most or maybe all of them out. Two spots look like they might still have spines in them, but it could be dried blood under the skin. Can’t tell yet.

    Anyway, just thought I’d share that. Also looking for any input any of you might have. Similar injuries, etc.

  2. mgmonk

    mgmonk Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Atlanta, GA
    I thought I'd share over here as well.
    Below is the exciting conclusion to my foot issues.....

    Well, I finally decided to go to the DR. on Wed.
    One of the spots had become very sore, and while the rest of my foot had healed, I had a small bump where one of the spines had been left intact. I'd been too busy to get to a Doctor, but found a good day for it....then th damn thing popped out.

    I was sitting on the couch and taking a look at my foot when I realized that the spine was potruding a quarter of an inch. I reached down and pulled out a fully intact inch long spine.

    I feel great now. Looks like my foot had finally had enough.
  3. scubasean

    scubasean Loggerhead Turtle


    The ER doc/Surgeon missed an intact inch-long foreign body in your foot?

    Holy cow!
  4. mgmonk

    mgmonk Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Atlanta, GA

    That's what I thought, but in fairness....

    she did spend over an hour and a half buthchering my foot, which meant
    1)it was hard to see what was going on down there
    2)she was tired
    3)I was in pain-probably figeting alot

    Besides, when it was all done, no one in the room could tell whether the black dots all over my foot were left over spines or dried blood.
  5. opiniongirl

    opiniongirl Scuba Instructor

    Man: 0

    Nature: 24,977

    Sounds painful. When I first started diving I thought they shot their spines at you like porcupines. I was terrified.
  6. damo

    damo Guest

    I'm sitting here at the moment with a few spines still in my hand from an incident in Thailand a week ago. We were dropped off in a shallow reef at night and before descending I bumped into a submerged rock, my impulse upon bumping into this rock was to put my hand down to support myself... big mistake - right onto an Urchin.

    Anyway the DM said "There isn't much you can do about it" so I just forgot about it and enjoyed the dive - none of the spines went as far as an inch, but I copped about 7 spines and my hand is reacting to it. Two spines have been naturally rejected from my palm, however the area is still a bit sore around the finger joints...

    Does anyone know what happens if you leave the spines in? (Will my body eventually reject them all?) I have been too busy to see a Doctor, and after the earlier post, I don't particularly want to...

    Any advice would be appreciated.
  7. TikTok

    TikTok Angel Fish

    Those black sea urchins are very common around here and I've had a fair few spines in my legs. Normally I do my best to pull them out (slowly and without bending them) immediately. I think they will be ejected naturally eventually. However, it can cause problems if they fragment whilst inside your hand/leg/whatever, effectively making many tiny pieces that need to be ejected.
  8. james croft

    james croft Loggerhead Turtle

    Porcupines can't "shoot" their quills either. Keep your distance and don't touch and you will be puncture free.
  9. Tom Winters

    Tom Winters Scuba Instructor

    I stepped on a black sea urchin once while I was surfing in Honolulu. I just went home, pulled out as much as I could, kept it clean, and in a few days everything was ok. The spines are calcium so your body just absorbs them after a while, although there are better ways of achieving your calcium MDR.
  10. damo

    damo Guest


    Well it's over two months later and my hand is back to normal - what I didn't mention earlier however, is my girlfriend also put her hand on a black urchin a couple of days before I did (Isn't that romantic, matching injuries) anyway her hand is still affected by the stings, her fingers are swolen and after taking a some Antibiotics (although that was still a month or so after the injury, probably too late), nothing has really helped, in fact it's still causing her pain.
    Anyway, she had an ultrasound on her hand today, they didn't find any spines, just a lot of infection.
    It just goes to show, the injuries can effect different people in different ways.
    The moral of the story: you can gamble with leaving it and you might be ok, but if you get a chance, see a Doctor early and get on the right Antibiotics.
  11. Blox

    Blox Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Bangkok, Thailand
    Well, we sure have a fair amount of sea urchins around here. That kind with the long black spines. I've had my share of planting my hands into them (especially before I got a better grip on my buoyancy control :05: ). Generally the advice of everybody I know around here is to just leave the wound alone, if you've got stung -- no rubbing it, no putting anything on the wound etc.
    That has always worked for me - it felt uncomfy for a while, but whatever residues of spine there had been resolved within a matter of 2 days (tops).

    I'm sorry to hear that you and your girlfriend had a harder time with it and hope she'll be better soon.
  12. dpbishop

    dpbishop Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: San Diego CA
    This is from the DAN website:

    Q: 15 black sea urchin spines lesion of forearm. Swelling of wrist. What to do?
    A: Some sea urchins have sharp venom-filled spines that can easily penetrate the skin. Others (found in the South Pacific) may have small appendages (pincers) that grasp victims and inoculate venom. Sea urchin stings are painful. If a person receives many wounds simultaneously, the reaction may be severe and cause extreme muscle spasm, difficulty in breathing, weakness and collapse.
    1. Immerse the wound in hot water to tolerance (43.3 to 45 C). This frequently provides pain relief. Other field remedies, such as application of vinegar or urine, are less likely to diminish the pain. If necessary, administer pain medication.
    2. Carefully remove any visible spines. Do not dig around in the skin to try to fish them out - this risks crushing the spines and making them more difficult to remove. Do not intentionally crush the spines. Purple or black markings in the skin immediately after a sea urchin sting do not necessarily indicate the presence of a retained spine fragment. The discoloration more likely is dye leached from the surface of a spine. The dye will be absorbed over 24 to 48 hours, and the discoloration will disappear. If there are still black markings after 48 to 72 hours, then a spine fragment is likely present.
    3. If the sting is caused by a species with pincer organs use hot water immersion, then apply shaving cream or a soap paste and shave the area.
    4. Seek the care of a physician if spines are retained in the hand or foot, or near a joint. They may need to be removed surgically, to minimize infection, inflammation and damage to nerves or important blood vessels.
    5. If the wound shows sign of infection (extreme redness, pus, swollen regional lymph glands) or if a spine has penetrated deeply into a joint, the injured person should be treated with an antibiotica by a qualified health professional, taking into consideration the possibility of a Vibrio infection.
    6. If a puncture in the palm of the hand results in a persistent swollen finger(s) without any sign of infection (fever, redness, swollen lymph glands in the elbow or armpit), then it may become necessary to treat the injured person with a seven- to 14-day course of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (e.g., ibuprofen) or, in a more severe case, oral prednisone, a corticosteroid medication.
  13. 2Tours N Iraq`

    2Tours N Iraq` Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Hopkinsville, KY
    Thankfully I've always been careful around sea urchins. I hope your girlfriend's hand starts feeling better quickly.
  14. damo

    damo Guest

    Thanks for your concern. My girlfrinds hand did swell up again diving in extremely cold water on Australia's south coast (we thought maybe the spines wanted to break out and be amongst there own) - but now it's back to normal!

    Happy diving!
  15. DoubleDip

    DoubleDip Nassau Grouper

    I had the misfortune to introduce my big toe to a Urchin at Kaanapali once. My well protected, Birkenstock clad foot slid right under Coral head and into an Urchin. I was caught by a swell while pushing my kids on their boogie boards. The pain was tremendous and persistent for several hours afterward. My toe was completely saturated with long sharp quills. In no time I noticed an odd black coloring. I hobbled my way down the boardwalk towards the resident Physicians office for some professional advice. He calmed me down and gave me the news; you really can’t just pull them out, there ringed and extremely fragile. They just break off when you try to pull them out. So the prescription was Antibiotics and Ibuprofen if needed, plus the issue of a nice 27 gauge needle to scrape and prod the quills out, if I was so inclined, he cautioned that I probably wouldn’t get all of the material out and thus the reason for the Antibiotics, and with that he shoed me out of his office. After a couple of my brother in-laws Mai Tai’s, only the strange coloring remained. It seemed like weeks later that you could still see some of the spines. Oddly enough I still feel sympathy pain in my toe when thinking about that little run in with a Urchin. I hope your friend gets well soon, regards.
  16. reeldive

    reeldive Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Wausau, FL
    I grew up on the Bahamian island of Inagua and Plantation Daupine, Hati and Puerto Rico. Had lots of run ins with sea urchines. the recomended Island treatment is to pee on them. My mother, being a nurse tried household amonia or vingar. don't know if any of this helped but we lived through it.
  17. Christof

    Christof Angel Fish

    I made the mistake of pointing to one of those beautiful purple/blue ones in maui to my wife and even though my finger barely touched it, about three spines nailed me... Man oh man did that hurt (like a wasp sting) and the tip of my finger turned white.... Sore as hell for about 3 days...

  18. alo100

    alo100 Manta Ray


    Sorry to hear that....

    About the reply:
    "A: Some sea urchins have sharp venom-filled spines that can easily penetrate the skin. Others (found in the South Pacific) may have small appendages (pincers) that grasp victims and inoculate venom. Sea urchin stings are painful. If a person receives many wounds simultaneously, the reaction may be severe and cause extreme muscle spasm, difficulty in breathing, weakness and collapse."

    I'm glad that it's here... the solution too...
    At the place where I am travelling, there is a sea urchin farm, so the guy started to talk about it. There are 2 common kinds of sea urchin here, the type which has extra long spines, they are given with another name in the local language. They are the type which are filled with venom. So when people dive around for sea urchins or trying to pick up sea urchins at the sea shore, they tried to avoid touching those with longer spines.
  19. tommyk

    tommyk Angel Fish

    I've been poked plenty over the years, as have my pals (California Reds - tropicas are much worse). I like to try to dig them out with a 25 or 27 ga. needle - even if you don't get it all, they usually fester & come out on their own. I've had some bad experience with the doctors, who sometimes get a little carried away & can do more harm than good. I have used them , but only as a last resort.
  20. rjpv

    rjpv Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Let's not forget, I bet the guy smashed the heck out of the urchin, who is now missing at least 8 of its spines ;)

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